For the jaded traveler, arrival in one place in Japan can often seem suspiciously like arrival in any other. After quitting a station building, you can find yourself viewing thoroughfares lined with familiar-looking stores, with it all appearing instantly similar to other places beheld elsewhere the length and breadth of the archipelago. But that deja vu sensation certainly doesn’t manifest itself in the Yaeyama Islands.

The usual arrival point in this island group at the remote end of the long Okinawan archipelago is the airport on the main island of Ishigaki. The drive from the airport is along roads flanked with palm trees, past fields of tall sugarcane and stone-walled gardens bristling with crimson hibiscus. From Ishigaki’s port, Iriomote is 40 minutes by ferry.

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